6 January 2006
Without a doubt, Batman begins is the best movie I've watched this year.
Boy, that joke never gets old*.
It's very well done, and puts most, if not all, of the recent superhero films to shame. Chris Nolan and David Goyer spare us many of the conventions the previous incarnations have inflicted on the moviegoing public: the delightful but hokey 'POW' 'BAFF' and 'ZOWIE's that lent the '60s TV series its camp and charm, overly gothic Gothams, plastic nipples, blacklit and neon-clad street gangs, K-car police cruisers, ridiculous villains and pithy one-liners, and Danny DeVito. Gotham resembles a normal city, albeit with more shadows and a train system redolent of art deco and the so-called Silver Age of comics art. But plausibly so. Could it be a subtle dig at Spiderman 2 with its elevated train action sequence? Probably not.
The effects work is top notch, with only minor missteps in with swooping swarms of bats and scary, shaky POV effects shots, but in each case they get the job done. The miniatures work with the new Batmobile is exemplary, and the entire chase sequence is equally cool and engaging. The characters are interesting and believable, and the actors portraying them do a fine job doing so.
That said, I have some minor quibbles. Batman's voice sounds a bit odd at times, as though in persona he's taken up a carton-a-day smoking habit or is deliberately trying to sound tougher. Or maybe the Gotham air's more abrasive the faster you breathe it, and he probably takes in his share of bugs and airborne particles whilst swooping through the streets. At least he talks out the front of his mouth. Katie Holmes, on the other hand, doesn't. She's apparently always been inflicted with this odd sideways-speaking bit, and it's only the more distracting when she's got those big closeups. I don't recall seeing it in Go and wherever else, but this is also the biggest role I've seen her undertake so far.
Gary Oldman, on the other hand, speaks like, well, a native, however one of them is supposed to sound.
And then there's Michael Caine. I realize that there are few British actors available for the Alfred role (Michael Gambon and Patrick Stewart being the first two I would name, followed by Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen) but couldn't he have been coached to sound a little more, oh, Jeeves-like**? He's got his same accent from Goldmember and The Italian job and even The man who would be king, and I can't imagine Alfred ever uttering "I figger..." the way Charlie Croker or Peachy Carnehan would 've. Michael Gough certainly never did, and as the one stable feature of the previous recent features he had always performed admirably.
I am, of course, overlooking the fact that Christian Bale is, in fact, Welsh.
Based on what I know of his preparation for other movies with eleven or twelve letter names (The Machinist and Equilibrium), I don't doubt that he brushed up on his close combat skills, effort that is all but wasted due to the incredibly quick editing of most of the fight scenes. Nolan's a relative newcomer to action (more than was in Memento, at least), but if they let him helm the inevitable sequels, I'm sure he can only get even better.
I'm certainly looking forward to seeing him try.
* Just like the "Remember, you're [whatever]ing for two," with which I chide my pregnant co-worker, about once a day. Comic hilarity every time.
** Having recently watched some of Jeeves and Wooster and re-watched Gosford park I think I can recognize the stereotypical British butler/valet/manservant diction. Stephen Fry, of course, isn't nearly old enough for the role, but he could've helped Michael knock out some of the cockney here and there, I'd think.